Before Kris Smith arrived in Australia, he had never heard of the term ''store wars,'' a media construct coined to describe the competition between Myer and David Jones for the department store shopping dollar.
''It is strange to me because there are so many department stores in England that you could never do that,'' the model and former British rugby league player says.
''But the reality is it's such a small community throughout Australia that [Myer and David Jones] are fighting for trade and they want customers through their doors. When there are two [department stores] it can easily be perceived as rivalry but the fact of the matter is both department stores are looking after their own backyard rather than worrying about everyone else's.''
Smith is now a soldier on the front line of the so-called store wars, as an ambassador for Myer alongside former Miss Universe Jennifer Hawkins, Rebecca Judd, Laura Dundovic and others.
Shooting advertising campaigns, walking in Myer fashion shows, hobnobbing in the department store's marquee during Melbourne's spring racing carnival and undertaking community work are among the tasks that have fallen under Smith's muscular remit in his ambassadorial role over the past three years.
At David Jones, Smith's male equivalent is menswear ambassador Heath Townsend, who is part of a stable including Miranda Kerr, Megan Gale and Samantha Harris. The group performs similar duties for DJs, including taking part in fashion parades, making in-store appearances and starring in television commercials.
But full-time department store ambassadors are another thing Smith had not encountered overseas.
While his partner, Dannii Minogue, has appeared in two commercials for British retailer Marks & Spencer, the notion of year-round ambassadors for a department store is almost an exclusively Australian proposition. ''You just don't see it anywhere else,'' the editor of Vogue Australia, Kirstie Clements, says. ''It actually is quite an Australian phenomenon.''
Why do our department stores use ongoing ambassadors - Gale and Hawkins have represented David Jones and Myer since 2001 and 2007 respectively - when others around the world do not? Deborah Hutton had an 11-year reign at Myer before Hawkins, while DJs signed Sarah Murdoch (then O'Hare) as its face in 1997, before American model Lauren Hutton took over until 2001, when Gale was signed up.
Clements believes the use of ambassadors to spruik fashions and homewares here is ''very reflective of our small market''.
With a smaller population, and certainly fewer people forking out for high-end designer fashion, ambassadors can play a valuable role in generating publicity for department stores of everything from washing machines to groceries.
The group general manager of marketing and brand development at Myer, Megan Foster, agrees: ''It resonates with the customer to give a likeable, warm face that people can relate to. We don't [pick] ambassadors just because they can model the clothes, they need to be very well-rounded people because they engage with the public and do appearances on a regular basis.''
Different ambassadors appeal to different market segments. Myer's racing ambassador, Rebecca Judd, has greater appeal in Melbourne due to her AFL player husband, Chris Judd, while Laura Dundovic works better for Myer in Sydney as she has an association with Sydney designer Charlie Brown, for whom she has fronted campaigns. Harris is DJ's youth ambassador and Kerr's global profile as a Victoria's Secret model offers appeal to men as well as women hankering after high fashion.
''When well-chosen, ambassadors heighten the brand's positioning and engaging of customers,'' the group executive of marketing at David Jones, Brett Riddington says.
But does the PR actually boost takings at the till? The issue is particularly pertinent given ambassadors are compensated generously for their time and efforts.
''Direct sales is not normally the specific aim but [ambassadors] certainly becomes something the customers are interested in,'' Riddington says. ''If Miranda is wearing something, it becomes a talking point and as a byproduct there are sales of that brand.''
Sydney label Lover experienced a massive increase in demand for its red-lace dress when Kerr wore the brand stocked at DJs to a press conference in July last year and images of a one-piece by swimwear brand Jets were flashed around the world when Kerr wore it in the department store's spring-summer collections launch several days later.
It's hardly surprising that department store ambassadors have parlayed the public interest in themselves into establishing their own brands.
Hawkins has her own swimwear label, Cozi, in partnership with Myer, Kerr has a skincare range called Kora and Gale has also founded her own swimwear brand, Isola. ''If you have a public profile and you are seen as a key influencer, it makes sense that you would move into those areas,'' Clements says. ''It's just how the world works.''
But sometimes that world doesn't go according to plan. Hawkins was dropped from Myer's fashion show at the G'Day LA event in Los Angeles in January 2010, following a dispute over commercial arrangements between her manager and Myer.
''We are a commercial business so we make commercial decisions and in the end it wasn't commercial for us,'' Foster says. ''But we sorted it out [and] now the relationship is as strong as ever.''
So strong that last year Myer committed to stocking Cozi for three more years.